Home » Kratt is a Devilishly Dark Delight [Fantasia 2021 Review]

Kratt is a Devilishly Dark Delight [Fantasia 2021 Review]

Earlier this year, the brilliant Psycho Goreman gifted a couple of bratty kids their very own monster to play with and cart around town to do their bidding. Kratt could almost be considered the Estonian companion piece to that film except, in this case, the brother-sister duo in question is using their grandmother as a personal assistant/monster. Writer-director Rasmus Merivoo’s first film in 12 years is more than worth the wait, a delightfully deranged twist on kids’ horror gleefully packed with jokes, gore, and bizarre local politics that really shouldn’t work but absolutely, 100 percent does.

Kicking off in 1895, the scene is set with a little wild-haired man killing people while demanding more work to do. A book with a pentagram inscription suggests the Devil is indeed in the details. Fast-forward to the present day and a family of four rocks up to Grandma’s place so kids Mia and Kevin (capably played by Nora and Harri Merivoo, the director’s own children!) can take a break from their ever-present smartphones while their long-suffering parents attend a wellness retreat – the little we see of it suggests new-age bollocks exists everywhere, even in tiny Estonian villages. Grandma is self-sufficient, takes no guff, and refuses to be ashamed of her hard-scrabble lifestyle, which involves plenty of farm work for little pay.

Grandma wants to teach Mia and Kevin about the value of hard work but the kids, understandably, don’t really feel like cleaning up chicken poop, particularly if they can’t afford ice pops down the shop afterwards. One day, after a visit to the library with a couple of equally bored local kids (Roland Treima and Elise Tekko, resplendent in matching jumpers), they stumble upon the legend of the kratt, a helper who can be summoned via a blood sacrifice to the Devil (“I don’t want to meet Satan!” exclaims poor Kevin). The way these mischievous kids see it, if they can summon this creature, Grandma will have more help around the house and their summer will be a bit more relaxing as a result. Unfortunately, something gets lost in translation and Grandma’s soul is taken by the beast, leading her to become the kratt. Much madness ensues.

Related: Agnes Is An Ambitious Arthouse Exorcism [Fantasia 2021 Review]

There’s a lot going on in Kratt, from the message that social media, or even the internet at large, is the real villain, to complex local politics involving eco-terrorists and a beleaguered governor, as well as the greater implications of what it means to really value your family and, in particular, trust your elders. Merivoo elegantly balances his offbeat tone throughout, deftly spinning several blood-splattered plates at once, always completely assured in his singularly insane vision. The film is darkly funny, with disembowelment, projectile vomiting, and a fart-powered rocket presented with the kind of wink-wink-nudge-nudge knowing humor that’s completely disarming, and charming to boot. A couple of characters even look directly at the camera, in a deliberate wink to what’s unfurling around them.

Kratt is quirky, light-hearted, and silly with a jaunty score giving it the feeling of a bizarre farce, but there’s quite a sweet, pro-family message buried underneath it all. As Grandma, Mari Lill is genuinely brilliant, imbuing the character with a kind of seen-it-all self-confidence that bleeds into her unhinged portrayal of the creature. She’s utterly terrific; it’s wonderful to see an older actress gifted such a meaty, frankly challenging role and just nailing it completely without having to steal focus from the younger performers. Wild-haired and wild-eyed, Grandma is a force to be reckoned with but underneath her shower cap and nightie, she’s still the same, kind old woman she always was. Lill is responsible for some of the film’s best sight gags, too, while her deadpan response to one kid questioning whether her pancakes are gluten free is an absolute all-timer.

There’s so much to love about Kratt it’s difficult to even know where to begin, from the naturalistic and committed performances from a cast of faces most viewers won’t recognize, to the jokes that pay off not just in the story as a whole but as a demonstration of Merivoo’s craft as a filmmaker – consider how a priest holds up a photo of a crucifix on his phone that’s then reflected in Lill’s eyes; it’s equally ridiculous and genius. It’s unlike anything else you’re likely to see this year, even amongst Fantasia’s impressively diverse slate. Funny, warm, gory, and loaded to breaking point with stories and characters you’ll instantly love, Kratt is genuinely one of a kind. With any luck, we won’t have to wait another 12 years for the follow-up, while it hardly needs to be said but cast Lill in everything.



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Written by Joey Keogh
Slasher fanatic Joey Keogh has been writing since she could hold a pen, and watching horror movies even longer. Aside from making a little home for herself at Wicked Horror, Joey also writes for Birth.Movies.Death, The List, and Vague Visages among others. Her actual home boasts Halloween decorations all year round. Hello to Jason Isaacs.
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